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10 Student Protests That Rocked India And Showed What It Means To #RaiseYourVoice

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By Ankita Mukhopadhyay

Young people in India are socially aware and this became more evident through major movements that made institutions realise that they can’t take students for a ride in the name of education. Students across the country rose up to regressive administration rules and discriminatory practices. Below is a list of 10 such movements.

1. #Hokkolorob

January 2015 was truly a momentous beginning for student politics across the country. Students of Jadavpur University, in one of the largest student protests in the country, forced their Vice Chancellor to resign. The spark to the fire was added by a molestation case on campus, which was overlooked conveniently by the VC. Students went on a hunger strike and two rallies in Kolkata in September 2014 saw a turnout of 5000 and 10000 students in support of the cause. It culminated with nearly a 100 students refusing to take their degrees during the Convocation and effigies of the VC being burnt. After four months of continued agitation, in January 2015, the VC of Jadavpur University, Abhijit Chakrabarti resigned from his post, leading to much cheer from students of the University.

2. Students In Kerala Fight Against Discriminatory Curfew

#Breakthecurfew and #responsiblyfree became the anthem of a massive movement at the College of Engineering, Trivandrum, Kerala in March 2015. Female students of the campus protested against the discriminatory curfew timings. What angered students more was that the hostels were not even provided a fire exit in cases of emergency to ‘protect the honour’ of the girl students! From cycle rallies to organizing street plays, the girls of the college didn’t back down to the regressive rules of the hostels that marred their scientific and moral progress.

FTII chairman3. FTII Protests Against Appointment Of New Chairman

On 12th June, 2015, Gajendra Chauhan was appointed the Chairman of the Film and Television Institute of India (FTII). The appointment of Chauhan was seen as problematic by the students of FTII because not only did he lack the requisite credentials, but he had also been a right-wing hardliner for 20 years. Students of the FTII went on an indefinite strike protesting against the appointment, with protests in places like Delhi erupting into a clash of the students with the police. Directors Anand Patwardhan, Diwakar Banerjee and more returned their national awards in solidarity with the students of FTII. Finally, after more than 150 days of agitation, the students discontinued their protest and resumed classes. But the spirit of their movement signifies a larger struggle of the student body with a right-wing fascist objective of saffronizing education.

4. IIT Roorkee Students Expelled

In July 2015, 73 students from the prestigious IIT Roorkee were expelled due to poor academic performance. Though they were taken back, what made the protests against this move of the institution significant was that of the expelled students, 90% of them were from the reserved category, and it is unclear whether ‘marks’ were the only reason behind the expulsions.

delhi college of art protest5. Delhi College Of Art Protests Over Shoddy Facilities

Over 300 students of Delhi College of Art went on a protest on August 31 over a shortage of teaching staff and equipment and lack of sanitation facilities. While Delhi CM Kejriwal, on one hand, had asked FTII Pune students to hold their classes in Delhi after a massive crackdown on them during their protests, there seemed to be little sympathy for India’s finest fine arts institution.

With little change in the course syllabus and lack of faculty, the protest ended on a very low note. But here’s hoping the students of DCA again rise up to the challenge and demand what is rightfully theirs.

6. #Mydegreenotfake

The Footwear Development and Design Institute (FDDI) is a Government institute, but only in name. In September 2015, FDDI was involved in a major degree scam. Students who had enrolled post 2012 had been promised degrees from Mewar University in Rajasthan, whereas the campuses of the institute were located outside Rajasthan.
In May 2015, there was a rumour in the media that the degrees of students were invalid. On filing RTIs, the students discovered that this was true and that the UGC had already raised questions against the MoU between FDDI and Mewar University. On 12th September, students at FDDI went on a strike demanding an INI status for the University. On discussion in the Ministry of Commerce and Industry that is in charge of the University, Minister Nirmala Sitharaman stated that the students should be awarded a degree from IGNOU till the institute was given an INI status.

Students continued their protest against the Institute, demanding INI status and refusing to be given IGNOU degrees. Their protest continues till date.

pinjra tod no more curfew raj7. Pinjra Tod

October was a seminal month for student politics, in more ways than one. Two students, Devangana Kalita and Shambhavi Vikram Singh began a Delhi-based campaign called #PinjraTod: Break the hostel locks in October, which was a reaction to a circular by Jamia Millia Islamia that cancelled late nights for its girl’s hostel residents. Women across the country began to question their hostel regulations and the Pinjra Tod movement soon gained momentum across the country. From Patiala to Hyderabad, women students refused to be bogged down by sexist rules that restricted their movement on campuses.

The Pinjra Tod movement reached campuses like Maulana Azad National Urdu University Hyderabad to Ram Manohar Lohia National Law University Lucknow and continues to unite students against sexist campus rules till date.

Image posted by #OccupyUGC on their Facebook page
Image posted by #OccupyUGC on their Facebook page

8. #OccupyUGC

On 7th October 2015, the University Grants Commission (UGC) decided to scrap the non-NET scholarship, a scholarship given to students who haven’t cleared the National Eligibility Test (NET) examination, citing that there was no need for them. For many, the meagre amount of the scholarship was the reason they could even conduct their research. What started as a small protest escalated into an occupation of the UGC head office. Students refused to let education be a ‘saleable commodity’, correlating the non-NET issue to the larger issue of the opening of the education sector to private investment with the signing of the WTO GATS by the Modi Government in December 2015.

And the Government responded with lathi-charge and surprise police raids on the protestors. Students continue their protest till date.

9. EFLU Hyderabad Protests

An unrelenting VC, cameras in every corner of campus, an indefinite postponement of students union elections – all this and more were reasons for EFLU (English and Foreign Languages University) Hyderabad students’ anger against their University. EFLU became the site of a battle between the students and the administration, with show-cause notices being issued for serving meat in the hostel during Gandhi Jayanti to posting a Facebook status about the University. In early November 2015, after an article was published about the University, some students were forced to vacate their hostels and the admission of one was cancelled. But EFLU students refused to back down, and finally elections were held in end-November and a new Union was elected to represent the students.

twitter prosenjit10. #JusticeforProsenjit

In November 2015, Prosenjit Sarkar, a final year engineering student at the National Institute of Technology (NIT), Durgapur died due to medical negligence on campus. While the Institute claimed that Prosenjit had died due to other reasons, students claimed that he was administered a wrong medicine and by the time arrangements were made to take him to the hospital nearby, he had already died.

Students of NIT Durgapur filed multiple RTIs against their University because of this case, and RTIs revealed faulty appointments, understaffing at the University, and more. #JusticeforProsenjit became a national movement, which even the Ministry of Human Resource Development couldn’t ignore.

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in Change.org’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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